Federal Bytes

FRAMING THE ISSUE. Sometimes reporters here at FCW know about a newsworthy event days or even weeks before it officially happens. For example, we were informed by several sources two weeks ago that the Defense Department had selected Sprint to provide frame relay and X.25 telecommunications services through the FTS 2001 contract. Unfortunately, DOD officials were unprepared to announce the decision until officials there could agree on the wording.

An insider told us that as late as last Thursday, Defense officials could not come to an agreement on a definition of the term "frame relay."

It seems odd. These officials apparently agreed to spend millions of dollars for frame-relay service; they simply couldn't agree on exactly what they bought.

***

TOO SEXY. The Army's European Command recently has taken steps to block access to pornographic World Wide Web sites, developing a monitoring system that launches a screen with a dragon on it warning users that their attempt to access any inappropriate sites has been logged. The system reportedly uses a combination of keyword monitoring and Internet Protocol blocking technology.

However, the one site they didn't count on was the Defense Supply Expert (DESEX) system, which can be found on the Web at www.desex.com. Because the Uniform Resource Locator includes the letters S, E and X in succession, users attempting to access it were visited by the dragon.

Rumor has it that officials responsible for DESEX have been asked to change the system's name.

***

RED ALERT. A recent contract award to Lockheed Martin Corp., while not a federal contract, probably will have some impact on federal employees in Washington, D.C., especially those who drive to work.

A press release from the company earlier this month said the Washington, D.C., government awarded Lockheed a three-year, $28.5 million contract "for the installation of 40 red-light photo enforcement cameras," which take a picture of your car and license plate when you run a red light. The photos, of course, would be used as evidence to extract the requisite penalty from your pocketbook.

In an era when governments are being asked to cost-justify their investments in technology, we think the D.C. government's idea will produce a return on investment in spades. As anyone who drives in D.C. knows, the yellow light does not mean "Slow down because the light is about to turn red." It means "Speed up because the light is about to turn red."

The camera equipment is being installed nationwide in response to a campaign by Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. May we suggest that the D.C. government install the first camera at the intersection in front of DOT headquarters?

***

PARTY HOPPING. At a recent symposium on privacy, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) offered the techie audience a little fatherly advice. According to Ehlers, "scientists are politically clueless," and those working in the IT industry too often come into his office demanding a solution to their political problems. He encouraged attendees to develop a dialogue of mutual respect with Congress, perhaps taking cues from the automobile industry's well-groomed approach to politicians.

Bill Gates, chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., has taken that advice. Not only has he changed his party affiliation to Republican, he also has seen to it that 80 percent of the political money he donates goes to Republicans, according to Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who spoke last week at an industry breakfast.

With Republicans showing more outrage over the Democratic administration's antitrust case against Microsoft, one wonders whether "politically clueless" truly fits in the case of this well-known—and very wealthy—IT mogul.

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